Starting his first game of this campaign, Alexis Sanchez was notably rusty against Cologne, yet he showed exactly why Arsene Wenger refused to let him leave.
Arsenal’s team was hugely different from the eleven that put three past Bournemouth last weekend, but there was enough quality to see them over the line against their German opponents.
Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka and Alexandre Lacazette all had the night off, while Olivier Giroud, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and, most importantly, Alexis Sanchez entered the starting XI.
The Chilean was always set to be Arsenal’s main source of inspiration but on the ball he was sloppy and, while he worked well defensively, it wasn’t the determined and rugged display fans are used to seeing.
Sanchez began in his favoured left-wing position and he stayed there the whole game, with his heat map showing a very disciplined winger’s performance, constantly hugging the touchline.
From this wide spot, he combined with his teammates, completing 81% of his passes. This success rate was lower than Leonardo Bittencourt’s 88%, who played in the same position as Sanchez for Cologne.
Yet, the German couldn’t affect the game in the way Arsenal’s star man did. After a relatively uninspiring first-half, misplacing key passes and failing to beat his man, Sanchez proved his worth.
With the score at 1-1, the 28-year-old was sent down the left-wing by Alex Iwobi. Picking the ball up from the touchline, Sanchez drove inside after beating his man with a step-over and then dug the ball out from behind his standing foot to curl it round Timo Horn.
A stunning goal that changed the atmosphere inside the Emirates. The Gunners would go on to dominate the closing stages, with Hector Bellerin making the scoreline look comfortable at 3-1.
Aside from his stunning goal, Sanchez was quiet, yet his impact on the game telling.
It was an important game for the Chilean, nonetheless, gaining his first 90 minutes of the season. Going into the weekend, a huge fixture against Chelsea, Sanchez will be fitter and sharper.
He may not be in his finest form, as he showed against Cologne, but he’s getting back to his best, which will please Gunners fans immensely.